On behalf of the Senate, I am pleased to present the 2014 Annual Report of The University of Western Australia.
The year 2014, the first of the University's second century of operations, was marked by a number of achievements and challenges. Notable among them was the elevation of UWA to 88 in the Academic Ranking of World Universities, up from 91 in 2013 (and 200 just six years ago). Such rankings are important in increasing the attractiveness of the University to the top students and researchers; and our focus on them, and on being ranked in the top 50 by 2050, reflects a desire for the institution to strive for excellence and, importantly, to avoid hubris.
In the first quarter of the year, the Senate approved a new five-year strategic plan. The plan recognises UWA's responsibility to ensure that it continues to advance the effective exchange, development and application of useful knowledge—among and between students and staff, and between the University and a broad range of external stakeholders; or, as our founders expressed it, "to advance the prosperity and welfare of the people".
A major focus of the University's Senate and leadership during the year has been on the challenges of financial pressures resulting from cuts in public funding by successive Federal governments.
A considerable amount of time and attention has been devoted in the second half of the year to evaluating the likely impact of and responding to the Commonwealth Government's Higher Education and Research Reform Amendment Bill.
Like Universities Australia, which represents all Australian universities, we support the deregulation of fees and the general thrust of the Bill, but we have opposed some elements of it; namely, the proposed 20 per cent cut in Commonwealth Grant Support and the proposed CPI rate of interest on student loans. We continue to work with the Government in an endeavour to develop a workable solution which is capable of winning legislative approval.
Our support for the deregulation of fees recognises the incompatibility of the current funding model with the removal of caps on student places and the Government's goal of 40 per cent of 25–35 year olds achieving a university qualification.
Given the funding constraints faced by governments, it is clear that the quality of university education can only be maintained if students bear a higher proportion of the cost. Under the Government's proposals, those costs will continue to be funded through low interest loans, repayable only when the borrower's income exceeds average weekly earnings. The proposals will also increase access to a tertiary education for the less well-off through the mandatory allocation of 20 per cent of any fee increases to scholarship support—a figure which is likely to be exceeded by many institutions, including ours. Of all the alternatives available to the Government, the proposed model seems to us the most equitable.
We have been gratified by the strong support for and participation in UWA's fundraising campaign. At the close of the year, the New Century Campaign had received donation commitments totalling $230 million of its target of $400 million. We remain indebted to our major donors and to all of our supporters for their dedication to UWA.
In closing, may I acknowledge the Executive, staff and students for their continued commitment to the achievement of the University's goals and thank my fellow members of the Senate for their generous contributions.
Dr Michael Chaney AO CitWA